26 June 2019, by: Quintin van Jaarsveld
SUPER RUGBY FINAL PREDICTION – CRUSADERS V JAGUARES
The 2019 Super Rugby champions will be crowned in a fresh and fitting final as the Crusaders and Jaguares collide in Christchurch on Saturday (09:35 SA time). It’s the established guard against the new rising force. The Crusaders are chasing a record-stretching 10th title and the Jaguares their maiden championship.
Both teams are deserved of their place in the decider. The ‘Saders have been their classy, dominant selves, comfortably topping the table at the end of the season. They showed their play-off prowess to hold off the Highlanders (38-14) and Hurricanes (30-26) en route to their third straight final.
The Jaguares have been the revelation of the season. After a shaky start, they’ve bloomed into true title contenders and enter their first-ever final off the back of seven straight wins. They showed championship-calibre composure to edge the Chiefs 21-16 in a tense quarter-final. Thereafter and they dominated the Brumbies in their 39-7 destruction in their first semi-final appearance.
Both teams are full of Test stars. The Crusaders boast the word-class Sam Whitelock, talismanic Matt Todd, incomparable Kieran Read and the magnificent Richie Mo’unga to name a few, along with this season’s most prolific finisher, Sevu Reece, who’s an All Black in the making. Having bagged a brace in the humdinger against the Hurricanes at the weekend, Reece is just one try shy of the tournament-record 16 set by Ben Lam last season.
Teams are in for the #SuperRugbyFinal#Crusaders looking for a 3-peat while the #Jaguares can become only the 3rd team to win a Final overseas after the Crusaders in 2000 & 2017#CRUvJAG #SuperRugby pic.twitter.com/joONzGniuN
— Fox Sports Lab (@FoxSportsLab) July 4, 2019
The Jaguares, meanwhile, are powered by Los Pumas stars like the evergreen Agustin Creevy, towering Tomas Lavanini, phenomenal Pablo Matera and arguably the best halfback combination in Super Rugby in Tomas Cubelli and Joaquin Diaz Bonilla.
Yet, for all their star power, it’s their sublime, seamless cohesion that separates them from the rest. Both teams embody the notion that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, playing with a symbiotic synergy that overwhelms their opposition. This has seen them score more points per game than any other teams this season, the Crusaders averaging 33.2 and the Jaguares 28.9.
Styles make fights, as they say in the combat sports world, and the same is true in rugby. The Crusaders are the best running side in the competition by some distance, having scored the most tries (81), made the most carries (2,134), metres (8,552) and clean breaks (251), while they rank second in defenders beaten (438) and offloads (182).
?? The Crusaders are undefeated in their last 30 #SuperRugby games played on home soil (W29, D1) ? The last time they lost at home to a team from outside New Zealand was in 2015 against the Rebels. pic.twitter.com/52UFokguSf — BET.co.za (@betcoza) July 3, 2019
The Jaguares, in turn, have scored the most tries from attacking kicks this season. This will be an interesting sub-plot to look out for; will the tactic work against the ‘Saders, or will the hosts punish them like they did the ‘Canes? For all their ball-in-hand brilliance, the ‘Saders’ tactically outplayed the ‘Canes and their positional play was outstanding.
Defensively, little separates the sides, with the Crusaders ranked third (85.7%) and the Jaguares fifth (85.6%). With the Jaguares employing a press defence, Mo’unga’s pinpoint crosskicks could prove particularly effective. While the visitors will be well-served to target the flyhalf channel, where Mo’unga has been found wanting this campaign with just a 65% tackle success.
The set pieces are split. The Jaguares’ 91.8% lineout success rate is the third-highest this season, with the ‘Saders in lowly 10th place with 87.2%. The Argentinians were particularly impressive in this department against the Brumbies, poaching four of the Canberra outfit’s throws. Guido Petti Pagadizaval stole two of those to take his season tally to 13, three more than any other player and more than three times the Crusaders’ best of four, shared by Scott Barrett, Whitelock and Read.
The Crusaders have an ever greater and potentially decisive advantage at scrum time, though, where the feared Bajada is nowhere to be seen this year. Instead, the Jaguares have the worst scrum in the 2019 competition and were bulldozed by the Brumbies.
— SuperSport ⚽️? (@SuperSportTV) July 3, 2019